Why are some conservative thinkers falling for Trump?

Peter Beinart writes: Logically, Donald Trump should have less support among intellectuals than he had a year ago. That’s because over the past year, he has made statements that expose him as both ignorant of public policy and contemptuous of liberal-democratic norms. He has proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, incited violence against protesters at his rallies, responded to The Washington Post’s critical coverage by warning that its owner is “getting away with murder” on his taxes and “we can’t let him get away with it,” declared a federal judge biased because he’s Mexican American, and twice revealed his unfamiliarity with the term nuclear triad.

Instead, more than a year after Trump announced his presidential bid, his support among intellectuals has grown. Of course, many prominent conservatives — from George Will to William Kristol to David Brooks to Erick Erickson — oppose him militantly. But another cluster of writers and thinkers have declared themselves supportive of, or at least open to supporting, Trump. Among Trump’s critics, the predominant explanation for this openness is opportunism: Supporting the Republican nominee can have professional benefits. But a deeper dynamic is at work. It’s just hard to recognize, because American intellectuals haven’t felt the allure of authoritarian, illiberal politics this strongly in a long time.

In 1953, Czesław Miłosz published The Captive Mind, which described how a series of Polish intellectuals came to embrace Stalinism. Miłosz detailed the role that “coercion” and “personal ambition” played in their ideological transformation. But he stressed that he was concerned “with questions more significant than mere force” or material advancement. “To belong to the masses is the great longing of the ‘alienated’ intellectual,” Miłosz argued. “The gratifications of personal ambition … are merely the outward and visible signs of social usefulness, symbols of a recognition that strengthens the intellectual’s feeling of belonging.” [Continue reading…]

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